Archive for March, 2014

I’ll take a hurricane over an earthquake any day

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Anchorman earthquake 1

Southern California has experienced several moderate earthquakes in the past few weeks (4.1-5.1 on the Richter scale).

During my 16 years in L.A., I experienced hundreds of earthquakes. Most of them were either pre-shocks or after-shocks measuring well below 3.0 on the Richter scale. At that intensity, you feel them on a subliminal level that seems to merge with all the other energy and events that bombard you in a city without pause.

seismogramIt got to the point where, if something as dramatic as a 4.0 should happen to stir my senses, I might casually look up from the newspaper I was reading and calmly predict to my wife, within a tenth of a point, whether it was a 3.9 or a 4.1.

That’s just how Californians are about earthquakes. It just goes with the territory.

A year or so before I left California, my feelings about earthquakes changed when I was spooked and spooked badly. I was in bed about 5:30 a.m. when I woke up and it dawned on me I was in the middle of an earthquake. A big one.

apt collapseThe walls were vibrating and rumbling loudly. As I stepped out of the bed, the floor was sliding out from under me. Without any waking time to gather my thoughts into my usual casual attitude about such events, I felt a cold panic race through my body.

I put on a bathrobe and walked to the front door and, all that time, the earthquake still had the world around me in a full chop and blend. I stepped into the cold desert air, worrying less about falling telephone poles than my apartment building collapsing around me.

freeway earthquakeThe earthquake finally subsided. There was a moment when the nightingales stopped singing and a chorus of deafening car alarms and sirens filled the air instead.

muggerWithout warning, I had been attacked, and the feeling afterward left a rush of adrenaline in my system that put my body through a form of shock that took weeks, and even months to recover from.

That last early-morning earthquake I went through turned out to be only a 5.5, but the feeling of being caught at such a vulnerable moment never quite left me. When the 7.1 Northridge earthquake struck California shortly after our move to Florida, my wife and I hugged each other and felt blessed that we had the sense to get out when we did.

palms blowingSo here we are in the land of hurricanes. They’re not a good thing, either, but at least there is a warning when one is heading your way. There’s time to prepare mentally and emotionally. That’s a big thing. A hurricane is like hearing about a rash of burglaries in your neighborhood and having time to get your defenses up, whereas an earthquake is like suddenly getting violently mugged from behind out of nowhere.

If I had to make a choice of a disaster – and we’ve all seen that every part of the country has it’s own versions from twisters to deep freeze blizzards to floods and mudslides – I’ll take a hurricane over an earthquake any day. We have time to think about what’s going to happen, how we’re going to prepare for it and what we need to save – and even what our plans might be should we need to rebuild.

And, if we happen to first hear about one at 5:30 in the morning, there’s plenty of time to make coffee and read the newspaper. “Oh, look, it’s a category 3 and should be here by… Thursday, next week.”

– A. Wayne Carter

Tropical Storm Irene Map - 2

 

 

Things I’m Over, Volume 1

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Media Library

1) Collecting Shit       
          55 pennyWhen I was very young I collected coins. I don’t think I ever got past a wheat cent, or maybe a buffalo nickel. The holy grail of mildly passive coin collecting at the time was a misprinted ‘55 Lincoln cent where his image was blurred. Never got that one. I sold the collection for about $40 when I was ten.

I collected Marvel Comics almost until the age I went to college. I had issues 1-50 of most every title that came out in the sixties, including the original X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Thor, Iron Man, etc. If I still had those issues today and they were in near mint condition, the collection would be worth at least a half million. X-Men Number One alone recently sold for more than $30,000. I could’ve paid for my son’s college a few times over with my collection, or bought a nice shack on the ocean in Monterrey. X-menBut then we didn’t have comic saver bags back then and, even though I kept them in prime condition, I doubt I would’ve continued lugging the whole lot from Florida to L.A. and back again. I sold the entire lot for about $400 in 1973 and used the money to buy two large 80-lb ESS speakers, after I heard the cascading guitars of “Band on the Run” on them in a stereo store. I still use those speakers 40 years later, so it turned out to be a good investment. No regrets.

I eventually collected about 1,000 vinyl LPs, but as soon as I heard CDs, I traded them in starting in 1986 until I had about 1,000 CDs (I kept some of the best art vinyl). I never collected movies on VHS because it was a lousy medium, a pain in the ass to rewind, and you could never get a decent freeze frame. Laser discs cost $100 each and were too expensive. DVDs were perfect, so I collected about 700 of my favorite films and television shows. Now I’ve traded most of the DVDs in for Blu-rays because they’re even better. I won’t go 4K because, frankly, my 1080p eyes will never need anything better than the image I get from Blu-rays. And now, I regularly trade in my Blu-rays that I doubt I’m ever going to watch again for other Blu-rays I just want to see.

elton_john-captain_fantastic_and_the_brown_dirt_cowboy-frontalAt some point, I finally realized that collecting is just a more organized form of hoarding. And I realized something even more important: It’s never really about the collecting; it’s more about the hunt. The joy of collecting was in finding that rarer ‘D’ penny, scoring that latest issue of Spiderman, picking up the Captain Fantastic LP the day of release, or having your favorite film finally come out on DVD or Blu-ray. It was the hunting and gathering that was fun, not the actual owning or putting that stuff on the shelf. Sure it’s nice to see this big library of stuff on my shelf, but, like I’ve said before, am I really going to listen to or watch it all again?

So now, it’s all just an evolving and diminishing library. If I have something I think someone else might enjoy, I pass it on. That gives as much pleasure as the original hunting and gathering. If I want to ‘briefly’ own a film or CD, I now trade in others to pay for it. I recycle. It’s all just moving through me now, not possessing me. And I also realize, I could let go of it all tomorrow. Well, except for the 3,100 songs on my iPod and iPhone. You’ll pry those songs in my earbuds from my ears when I’m dead (or I get tinnitus).

2) Putting a napkin on my lap when I eat out
I hardly see anyone do this anymore. I think it was part of a bygone era from when we watched Donna Reed with our parents. But we were trained well, because I have been doing it subconsciously ever since. Now, I’m thinking… “Fuck it.” It’s not just being lazy. Donna ReedPerhaps it’s a mild act of rebellion, where I don’t give a shit if I happen to spill something on a pair of pants. Or maybe I don’t have any pants worth caring that much about. A spill? Oops. Oh, well. Either wash them or toss them. How’s that for being a Rebel with a Cause? I’m sorry, mom, but you’re not around anymore to feel like you failed teaching manners in any way, and, like I said, laps seem to be open game these days. I believe I can count the times something actually dropped in my lap on one hand. With allergy season 24/7, I’m more likely to blow my nose on the napkin today than lay it across my lap.
dining-etiquette-tips-M2_A3e_581Ann Landers just turned over in her grave.

No napkin would have stopped the glass of water my future wife threw under the table at my crotch when we were goofing around on an early date. I remember getting in a movie line afterwards to see Raiders of the Lost Ark in Westwood with my pants soaked in the front thinking, “No one’s going to think I actually pissed my pants.” If so, why would I really be standing in a movie line with this beautiful woman by my side? But as we walked further down the line and people continued to chuckle behind my back, I wondered if my reasoning had been wrong. That’s when I discovered that I had somehow also sat on an open package of brown mustard back at the deli. So it looked like I had not only pissed my pants, but shit them, as well. No wonder everyone was laughing.

A napkin on my lap wouldn’t have saved that event from occurring. And for that memory alone, and the laughs it provided, I’ll just say grace.

– A. Wayne Carter